Outdoor advertising competes with life: Prasoon Joshi

By Chumki Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In OOH News | June 04, 2008
Prasoon Joshi of McCann Erickson has been nominated president of the Outdoor jury at Cannes 2008. In a conversation with afaqs!, Joshi spoke about the new feather in his cap and about his views on the outdoor industry in India


Joshi of McCann Erickson has been nominated president of the Outdoor jury at Cannes 2008. In a conversation with afaqs!, Joshi spoke about the new feather in his cap and about his views on the outdoor industry in India...

Q. How does it feel to be nominated president of the jury? Have you decided on a strategy to make the best of your role?
A. I have been part of the jury earlier. But being in charge of a jury is totally different. It is a lot of responsibility and a lot of hard work. People think it is a lot of fun to be in Cannes, but it is not so. You work almost 12-13 hours a day.

Prasoon Joshi
I don't have any strategy in mind. But I personally believe in finding the best ideas from the world, and that specific ideas should be given more attention. I do not want any part of the world to get ignored, or have only one kind of sensibility. Over and above that, the jury members are all accomplished people - that's why they are there. So, beyond a point, you can trust that the combined result of the jury will be correct.

There will be two or three rounds of judging. First, we move through the entire round very fast. Then the shortlist comes up. Next, we judge the work and allot the metal. The Cannes Festival is very unpredictable. If you can crack the format of an award show, it defeats its purpose.

Q. Where do Indian outdoor creatives stand vis a vis the international ones?
A. Globally, outdoor is going through and will go through a lot of change. A lot of experiments are being done. Outdoor has even become interactive. In India, I think outdoor is being used only as a reminder medium, barring a few cases. We should take it more seriously. Tomorrow, when someone paints today's world and asks what the world was like in 2008, it has to be a part of our backdrop. Hence, it cannot be taken lightly. Even though David Ogilvy didn't have much faith in outdoor, things have changed. A number of brands are being launched completely on outdoor in India.

Q. But the creatives are mostly from print, which are slapped on outdoor...
A. At times, yes. That's the mistake people make. They use it as a reminder medium. They either take a print ad or use a grab from a TV commercial and display the picture.

Q. Do you think lack of infrastructure leads to less creativity in outdoor?
A. Not in all cases. In India, we have a different kind of outdoor culture. If you look at our traffic jams - they can decide a lot of outdoor for us. I consider that outdoor is juxtaposed as the backdrop of life. It is the only medium which does that. For a print ad, you are reading the print material before and after the ad; for television, you watch programmes before and after the commercial. But for outdoor - before is life, after is life. So outdoor, or the hoarding, is constantly competing with life. It is a challenging medium in that sense.

Also, given the increasing levels of traffic jams in our country, the amount of time you spend looking at a hoarding is much more than, say, in London. You have to factor in those aspects, based on the culture, before designing an outdoor.

Q. Which McCann campaigns were launched on outdoor first? Do you think a brand can work on only outdoor?
A. Barclays was launched completely on outdoor. Also, BPL Mobile in Mumbai.
Where television works, outdoor can't. You have the storytelling aspect of television in outdoor. In the West, you have storyboards on outdoor, which keep changing. It is a medium which is growing. But people are experimenting. There was a hotel in Mumbai which created one of its rooms as an outdoor ad. We will have more of them and will be more organised.

Q. Which medium do you prefer?
A. I like all media. It depends on the requirement. I have got a gold at Cannes in Print and Outdoor. I won an award for the Happydent TVC last year. For radio, I have won a Clio. I feel it doesn't matter. What comes naturally to me is films and stories, and stories can be told in various ways. People are absolutely foolish when they allot media to a person. In advertising, people deal with ideas, the medium is secondary. Ideas are mostly media neutral.

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